Work Begins on Prayer Garden Delayed by COVID
July 16, 2020
ROCKFORD—One of the many things delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, spread and subsequent stay-at-home order was construction of a prayer garden honoring the Blessed Mother on the Cathedral of St. Peter campus. 
After the former chancery and convent buildings were razed in June 2019, preparations moved forward for a Marian prayer garden and additional parking for the Cathedral of St. Peter. 
Art renderings by ARC Designs of Rockford were proposed and displayed in the narthex of the cathedral. 
Planning meetings were held to make necessary revisions, finalize the construction plan and secure the necessary permits in the beginning of 2020. 
A five foot bronze statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be the centerpiece of the Garden, was selected and ordered 
The project entered the bidding process with an original target for completion by ordination day, which was June 6 this year.
Then COVID-19 put a virtual hold on the lives and business of everything and everyone.
Now that the State of Illinois is opening for more and more business, plans for the Cathedral campus can resume. 
Pat Winn, director of Catholic Charities and part of the project leadership team, said Stenstrom Contracting will begin this week grading the grounds for the parking expansion and preparing the site for the garden. 
Landscaping preparation and planting is the bulk of the project, Winn added. 
There also will be new lighting installed along with new pavement for an additional 24 parking spaces. 
Part of the site preparation will include removing the portico outside the former Cathedral of St. Peter School. Removing the old school circle and refreshing the landscaping there will enhance foot traffic from the cathedral to the garden and improve access to the former school for any new tenants in the building. 
“The general site preparation, installation of lighting, pavers, benches and most planting should be complete in about 10-12 weeks,” Winn said. 
The original timeline would have allowed for all landscaping to be completed at once, but now some plants will be put in when it is more seasonable.
The garden will honor Our Lady of Guadalupe as “Patroness of the Unborn.” 
The original plan was to have two gardens, one for the Immaculate Conception and one for Our Lady of Guadalupe. After site survey, it was decided to make one central garden with a good traffic flow to and from the cathedral. 
“The garden will honor the Catholic commitment to life using Our Lady of Guadalupe under her title as “Patroness of the Unborn,” a title given to her by St. Pope John Paul II in 1999, in addition to the unity she represents under her title as Patroness of the Americas,” according to Msgr. Glenn Nelson, vicar general and moderator of the Curia.
The site will also feature large trees, including those already on site, for each bishop serving the diocese since its founding in 1908. All plantings to be used are native to this area of the Midwest and include a variety of roses to honor Our Lady. 
“The goal is to have colorful plants in most all seasons of the year to enhance the prayer that will take place in the garden,” Winn said. 
Donations and funds for the approximately $120,000 garden were received and set aside in early 2019. A dedication date will be announced as the garden nears completion.
Besides the status of the coronavirus and the ability to have large gatherings, the only other unknown that could affect the dedication of the project is status of the Our Lady of Guadalupe statue, Winn said.
“Our friend Carol Giambalvo director of Catholic Cemeteries and part of the project leadership team, who is familiar with statuary, found and ordered a very appropriate image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But because of the business shut-downs caused by the pandemic, delivery of the statue will be delayed.
How long that delay will be is unknown right now,” Winn said.
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